But, when you have a dog that responds to the commands of a 4 yr old family member, with the same obedience and respect paid to the adults of the family, you know he’s a good dog. Could Lizzy ever attempt to walk him? Most definitely, not yet! But he will respond to her basic commands. He’s had to endure wearing the princess crowns as expected by a 3 yr old, and being wrapped in baby blankets, but he’s also come to enjoy the benefit of a respect that extends far beyond fear of a bite. Being careful to the sensitivity of his nose, understanding that he’s not a horsey whose back you can hop on for entertainment, that care need be taken when playing around him so that he doesn’t get fallen on or stepped on and that he has his 'alone time', are some of the basics Lizzy has come to know as essentials in responsible pet ownership. Eager to take part in his care, the natural progression on her way to filling his dishes with food, water, letting him outside, bringing him in to place him on his leash to dry off on the mat, and brushing him on occasion, has been met by him too with acceptance and his ultimate approval it seems. Of course, he’s no fool! Giving credit to the intelligence of the breed, he’s also quickly learned that if she can feed him, she can probably also NOT!
I strongly suspect that in years to come, with them being a year only apart in age, he will be dubbed a sibling to one growing up in a household as an only child. He will come to be the shoulder to cry on, the confidante in all of a young girl’s drama who will without fail, agree with her that life, as well as parents, can be so unfair! He will be her forever-loyal companion and whether ever called upon to do so or not, will at least in her mind always be, her most fervent protector.
And surprisingly, being easily twice her size and weight, he sits when she tells him to. She digs into his treat basket to lay a temptation on the floor before him. He sits, while looking at it as tho almost expecting it to vanish. She commands him to ‘stay’ holding up a little hand and he does, sitting and waiting ever so patiently. She walks away from him, while he stares at the ever growing succulent morsel on the floor with the drop of drool accumulating on his bottom lip, yet still offering to take no step out of turn. With her words “Okay Murphy!!”, he pounces off all fours as I know him all too well to do (:-(!), to devour his well deserved reward. She smiles in triumph, pats him on the head, praising him with "Good Boy Murphy!" and away she saunters to the den with a bowl of Cheerios and wagging tail in tow, to enjoy the rest of Scooby Doo, side by side.
It’s hard to say really, who is the luckier of the two. Any little girl would be fortunate to have a Murphy in her life, or is it that any Murphy would be fortunate to have such compassion and respect in his?
Next month sees National Be Kind to Animals Week of May 1-7th. In honour of all of our loyal 4 legged friends, past and present, this blog post is dedicated to those furry family members who give tirelessly and endlessly asking only in return, to be valued, respected, cared for...loved. Just as there are no time limits to practicing, there are no age limits to begin teaching our children kindness and respect for all living things.
Special thanks to Restigouche SPCA, for their ongoing kindness, dedication and meaningful work year round, and for our beloved, Murphster.
"He who is cruel to animals becomes hard also in his dealings with men. We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals." -- Immanuel Kant